It’s normal for newcomers to have gaps on resumes. It takes time to move to a new country, get settled, and find a job. A resume gap only becomes an issue when it’s a very large one. When you have a large employment gap on your resume (let’s say more than 4 or 5 months after immigrating), the perception is that no one wants to hire you. The perception is that other employers have also viewed your resume, interviewed you in person or by telephone, yet no employers have hired you – there must be a reason why.
Employment gaps are much worse for native-born candidates and they need to have good reasons to explain them. Since newcomers are expected to have employment gaps, they get somewhat of a pass on this issue – within reason.
Many candidates try to camouflage large employment gaps by using a functional resume format, splitting the gap on two pages, or omitting months. These tricks have been used time and again, it doesn’t fool anyone and it’s insulting to the resume reader’s intelligence. A gap in your resume isn’t always a reason to reject you, being misleading is.
There are some ways to help bridge large resume gaps in a more positive light and improve the optics. Taking this type of approach will show the employer that you are upfront, honest, and have integrity – qualities they love to see. It’s something to consider if you are not getting interviews
Bridging Large Employment Gaps & Improving The Optics
You can consider adding non-profession-related work, non-work-related activities, volunteer work, courses, etc. in the Employment History section (it’s better than showing absolutely nothing). Structure it like your past employment and put details, duties, things you learned, or how you improved in areas that will help you professionally and adds value. Put it in chronological order following other employment and treat it like it’s your most current job, with dates too (month & year). You can even tweak the Employment History heading to be something like Employment History/Recent Activities or Employment History/Personal Improvement or Employment History/Volunteer Work
- If you worked in an unrelated job for a few months, that’s great, put it on there. It will only be a problem if you work in an unrelated field long-term (6 months-12 months is too long). These jobs have transferable values such as improving English skills, dealing with customers, learning local culture, etc. – employers also understand that you have bills to pay
- If you worked on small projects or did short-term freelance work such as building a website for a small store, or book keeping for the local dry cleaners one day a week, put it on your resume (paid or not paid)
- You can put volunteer work on there
- Maybe you took self-help courses or English classes for a few months to reach a certain confidence level in your communications, before starting your job search. You can put this on
- Maybe you took a skills upgrade course or other courses related to your field
- Educational classes or any courses can be included to show some positive activity during the large employment gap
- The point is to show “some activity” or personal improvement during the large gap duration. It explains some of the gap, shows ambition, you’re taking control of your career, and improving your situation. “You did something productive that adds value”. When employers see a large empty gap with no activity at all, they might presume you are not getting interviews or just not doing well at interviews. They think there must be a reason why no one else wants to hire you. If you show some activity within a large employment gap it will increase your chances of getting called for an interview.